Robotic Nation? Exploring the myths of Robotic Automation
Written by: RNA Automation
Negativity regarding the cost of robotic automation is often a common stumbling block when offering a Robotic based solution for a manufacturing process.
1. Expense The misconception among many companies when investigating industrial robotics in manufacturing can often be down to lack of awareness, inaccurate cost, justification, fears of additional training costs and the awareness of what is available in the current market. The reality is the price of robots has been declining for the last ten years along with major steps forward in the technology. Today, robotic systems are faster, more accurate and simpler to set up. They are also becoming a practical alternative for small batch operations when combined with flexible feed systems and industrial vision, giving “future proof” automation.
Companies that utilise 24/7 operations can often keep the ownership cost low by gaining the benefits of higher reliability, lower maintenance costs and flexibility of a robotic systems. It has been reported that most robotic systems generate a ROI in less than 18 months some even sooner.
The true costs of a traditional pneumatic based machine compared to a flexible robotic solution can be significant when considering product changeover, and reliability.
RNA offer both standard and bespoke Robotic solutions designed and built for your specific application.
2. Robotic solutions are unreliable Robotic systems are being successfully employed in numerous markets and industrial applications including automotive, consumer goods, electronics, medical, marine, semiconductor, food and drinks. The reliability of a robot in production is measured using Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). This measurement is based on production hours a robot will function before failing. Robots are proven to provide 50,000 to 100,000 + hours MTBF of operation without failure – equivalent to 25-40 man-years. Let’s say a plant produces plastic moulding products on average 9 hours a day, five days a week. This comes up with a total operation time of 2,340 hours per year. If we divide 100,000 by 2340 we will arrive at an average robot life of 43 years.
The use of robotic systems simplifies part handling to minimize total number of system mechanical components. As an example, using a vision guided robot to pick component parts from a moving conveyor eliminates accumulating and orienting, reducing part jamming and part changeover with conventional feeding.
Robotic systems are no longer only associated with the automotive industry and proven for most applications within clean rooms and food processing often in a situated in hot, cold, dusty, noisy, wet conditions. The reliability is also backed up by the growing demand for refurbished systems or the Robot to be integrated with a completely different machine or process.
3. Robot systems require higher skilled operators and support personnel A common misconception is that operating a robotic system is a complex and difficult task. Robotic systems are not as complicated as often thought. No prior knowledge is required for an operator to run the system-it usually takes four to five days of training on-site for operators to feel comfortable with the system. Within a month it comes second nature but in some complex applications, additional days training may be recommended.
Today’s robotic systems are PLC driven, and are accompanied with an operator panel. The panel has an easy to use interface with simple recognizable navigation. Operators can start and stop a robotic system easily; make speed modifications; troubleshoot problems and backup original programs if required much like a home pc. Also, most robotic systems today feature remote diagnostics and programming to minimise loss of production and the need for service engineers site visits.
As graphical user interface technology has being advanced significantly in recent years, operators are taught even more quickly and effectively for robot programming. It is often said that if you can use a games console you can use a Robot teach pendant.
4. Employees fear redundancy due to new automation Robotic systems are well suited to jobs that are dirty, monotonous, difficult or hazardous. They free employees from the danger of many tasks and reduce H&S issues. The misconception of job losses to robotics is due to lack of awareness, in most cases new jobs are also being created in robot installation and maintenance. The installation of robotic systems provides employee training opportunities that can lead to higher levels of skill, better pay and new positions with the company. One key factor for success is to involve all employees early in the project and look at additional tasks a Robot can achieve within its main task cycle time.
A study ‘Positive Impact of Industrial Robots on Employment’ conducted by Metra Martech:-
- Growth in robotics use is expected to result in 1 million new jobs over the next five years
- 2 to 3 million direct employment and 3 to 5 million indirect employment as a result of robotics in world manufacturing
- ‘Automation and robotics’, ‘increased size of manufacturing plants’ and ‘globalisation of sourcing’ are three main factors of productivity increases
- * Greater use of robotics in the SME sectors, especially in the developed countries, to win back manufacture from the low cost countries.
- Greater use of robotics in the food sector as processed meals develop, to meet more stringent hygiene conditions.
More information can be found at IFR (International Federation of Robotics)’s website.
Rapp, S. (2009). Justifying the Use of Robots Chapter 12, Robotics. Retrieved from http://www.hgs.k12.va.us/Engineering_and_Robotics/Robotics/FlashPaperVersion/ROB_Chapter12.html
Robotic Industries Association. (2008). Robotics for Assembly Automation, Robotics online. Retrieved from http://www.robotics.org/userassets/riauploads/Robotic_Assembly_Automation_Considerations_10-21-08.pdf
MarketsandMarkets (2012). Global Industrial Robotics Market worth $32.8 Billion by 2017, M&M Press Reless. Retrieved from http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/industrial-robotics.asp
Farnum, G. (2012). The New Face of Robotic Welding, CIM. Retrieved from http://www.cimindustry.com/article/welding/the-new-face-of–robotic-welding
Owens, R. (2005). Robotics: The future of bottle loading, WaterTech. Retrieved from http://www.watertechonline.com/bottled-water/article/robotics-the-future-of-bottle-loading
Link: RNA Robotic Systems
RNA Automation Ltd
Unit C Castle Bromwich Business Park Tameside Drive, Birmingham B35 7AG, UK
T: +44 (0)121 749 2566
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